Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Rodizio Grill

Rodizio Grill
125 W. Nationwide Blvd.
Columbus, OH
(614) 241-4400
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For the first six years we were married, Lyndsay and I lived on Cape Ann just a little north of Boston.  A lot of Brazilian's have emigrated to the Boston area and Churrascarias, that is Brazilian steakhouses, abound there.  I came to love the garlicky, salty, rotisserie meats and so when I moved to Columbus, I was pretty disappointed that with as diverse a food scene as there is, there were no Brazilian steakhouses.  So when Rodizio Grill opened awhile ago, I didn't need to hear any more, I was going.

Rodizio Grill, which has about a dozen locations in nearly as many states, is a bit more upscale than the restaurants I usually visited in the Boston area.  The dining room is tastefully decorated, featuring decor that, without having actually been there myself I'm guessing evokes Brazil, while still firmly feeling like an American restaurant. There are only two dining options here, salad bar only, or the full churrascaria experience, which is why I was there.

After ordering drinks (they have an amazing selection of house-made fruit juices) and eating some of the complimentary garlic cheese puffs, crispy polenta fingers, and cinnamon plantains I made a trip to the salad bar.  The salad bar has several standout items, in particular the Brazilian black bean stew, which my friend Zach went back for seconds of.  They also had some delicious already prepared salads like Caprese, Caesar, and seafood salad. I filled up my plate and bid adieu to the salad bar, knowing I needed to save as much room as possible for the endless parade of meat that was coming.

They cook all their meats on this giant multi-rotisserie and then bring them around and cut off however much you want and you grab it with a little pair of tongs.  You have a little green and red indicator at your table that you use to tell the servers if you want them to keep bringing you meat or if you need a break.

It can be a little overwhelming to have meat constantly brought to you as you are trying to eat what is already on your plate, so I recommend taking a few minutes to load your plate up and then switch your indicator to red until you are ready to eat again so you aren't interrupted.  If you see something particular you want making the rounds, just switch it back to green for a minute so you don't miss it.  All of my favorites are available for lunch, which costs $19 a person compared to $33 a person at dinner, though they do offer more choice at dinner, including seafood. I especially recommend the top sirloin (picanhe), chicken hearts, chicken wings, parmesan pork loin, stewed brisket (offered in a bowl, not on a rotisserie skewer), and pineapple.

How I was Inspired
Revere, Mass is also the home of the original roast beef sandwich and I knew I wanted to try and make a Churrascaria picanhe version of this sandwich. I decided to make a sweet and savory sandwich by using the the garlic cheese puffs as my roll, the top sirloin as my meat, and adding in sauteed plantains.

Start by taking a 2 1/2 to 3 pound tri-tip with a good fat-cap on it and cutting it into equal-sized pieces about 3 inches wide.  Then roll the meat in rock salt, pressing as much into the meat as you can. Some will inevitably fall off whenever you move the meat, so be gentle.

Now I happen to own a small electric rotisserie, so I threaded the steaks onto the skewer the same way I had seen them do it at countless churrascarias.  This ensured the correct texture, but some of the flavor is lost by not doing it over charcoal, which is traditional.  The next time I make them I will cook them over the rotisseries until almost done and then sear them on my charcoal grill, but if you have a charcoal grill equipped with a rotisserie, that would be best.  Every ten minutes or so I basted the meat in garlic water, which was about five cloves of garlic that had been steeping in a cup of warm water for awhile and then passed through a fine-meshed strainer to remove any garlic pulp which would burn if it got on the meat.

After about 45 minutes on the rotisserie my meat had reached a nice medium and took it off the rotisserie to rest.  While the meat was cooking I prepared my cheese-puff dough and baked it.

The dough is made entirely in a pot.  You bring a mixture of butter, water, milk, and salt to a boil and then add tapioca flour and minced garlic.  Finally you stir in shredded parmesan cheese and beaten eggs until you get a very wet dough that resembles cottage cheese. I tried to make four large "buns" and then cut them in half and while I was moderately successful, they took too long to cook and were very hard to slice because of the tapioca flour.  Instead, I recommend making twice as many very thin cheese puffs and using two of them as the sandwich bread.

Next, I biased cut a plantain and sauteed it until it was golden brown on both sides.  I thin sliced some of the meat and I had my perfect sweet, salty, garlicky, chewy picanhe sandwich.

Picanhe and plantain on Pao de Queijo
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound tri-tip with a good fat-cap
  • rock salt (I used the kind of salt you find in a grinder)
  • 9 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 and 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. table salt
  • 4 cups tapioca flour
  • 1 and 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 4 beaten eggs
  •  1 semi-ripe plantain (half black)
  • a little oil for sauteing the plantain
  1. Cut the tri-tip into equal pieces each about 3 inches wide. Roll each piece in rock salt.  Mix half of the minced garlic with 1 cup warm water and let sit for a few minutes before straining the mixture, reserving the liquid.  Either thread the meat onto a skewer and rotisserie, or grill over a combination of direct and indirect heat until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees, basting with the garlic water every 10 minutes.
  2. While the meat is cooking, heat the remaining 2/3 cup water, butter, milk, and table salt in a stock pot over high heat, stirring to help the butter melt, until it is boiling.  Take the mixture off heat and add the tapioca flour and remaining garlic and mix thoroughly.  Add the parmesan and eggs and mix thoroughly.  Put 16 equally sized dollops of dough on an ungreased baking sheet and press down on each with a spatula to make thin wide rounds.  Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown.
  3. Peel and slice the plantain on the bias to make long thin silces.  Saute in a little oil over medium heat until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Thin slice some of the tri-tip and assemble your sandwich with some of the beef and plantain between two of the cheese bread rounds.
See you next week with a new recipe from a new Columbus restaurant (well, new to me anyway). What are some of your favorite restaurants.  Leave me a comment below.

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